How much water to use in watercolor painting? Definitive guide

Painting with watercolors is so enjoyable and relaxing. However, there are times when you feel like you’re trying too hard or the painting isn’t working out right. This usually has to do with the water-to-paint ratio, so how much water to use in watercolor painting?

The amount of water to use on watercolor painting depends on what kind of brush or paper you’re using and how light or dark you want the watercolor paint to be. The best way to learn how much water to use is by experimenting with different amounts of water on a practice sheet of paper.

Has this made it more clear? Follow the article to find out more about how much water to use in watercolor painting, how you dilute watercolor paint, and the different techniques you can try!

How much water to use in watercolor paintings

How do you dilute watercolor paint?

There are three ways to use water in your watercolor painting: a brush, the mixing palette, or wettened paper. This will make it much easier to understand the water-to-paint ratio.

It all depends on the look you’re going for! I strongly recommend trying out multiple techniques to see the differences.

Here are my tips for diluting your watercolors:

Use as little water as possible. Use just enough to get the desired effect, but not so much that it makes the paint too runny and difficult to control. The thing is, you can always add more, but it’s harder to remove excess water.

Add more color than water first. This will create a more vibrant color in your painting, which is desirable for many projects. If you’d like some shading or a lighter color, add more water. Yes – a lot of trial and error here!

Paint over an already painted area with diluted paint rather than applying directly from the tube or pan onto a new surface. This creates a nice even coverage of color on your paper or canvas when you layer colors together.

You can use a brush or a paper towel to wipe off excess paint on an area of the paper. Alternatively, dip your brush into clean water and then back into the color you want to dilute. This way, you don’t waste any of your precious pigment.

How much water to use in watercolor painting?

If you don’t know how much water to use, it can be frustrating. When using watercolors, it’s important to know how much water to use in order to achieve the desired effect.

If the paint is too wet, then it will be difficult for you to control the color on your paper or canvas. If it’s too dry, then you won’t be able to get any color from your brush at all!

Plus, every painting is different!

If your painting has too much water in it, it will run and fade. If there’s not enough water, your paint won’t transfer from the brush to the paper.

To get started with watercolor painting, you’ll need to learn how to mix your paints and control the amount of water in your paint mixture.

When painting with watercolors it’s essential to use the right amount of water. I know you might be thinking, but there are too many watercolor options.

How much water should I use? Should I just take my chances?” The answer is no, it’s not worth taking the chance to create drippy artwork.

The best advice I can give is don’t add too much water at once – start with just a few drops and stir them until they’re completely mixed into the paint before adding more if needed. 

Begin with your paints about as thick as milk and add water until they reach a consistency that works for you.

Not enough water

If there isn’t enough water in your paint mixture, your colors will not blend well together and they may appear blotchy or uneven on your paper or canvas surface.

Too much water

Having too much water in your mixture can cause the colors to run together instead of creating beautiful blends of color as they should!

The right amount of water

Ultimately, you want the mix to be watery, but to still have more paint. The brush is wet but not dripping. And the result should be a smooth stroke that shouldn’t dry out right away.

What affects the water-to-paint ratio for watercolor?

How much water to use depends mainly on three factors: the surface of the paper, the paint, and your brush.

The most important factor is the type of paper you are using. Watercolor papers are made with different thicknesses, textures, and surfaces.

Different papers have different amounts of absorbency, so this also affects how much water you need to use. You may have to experiment with different papers to find one that works for your style of painting.

Then there’s the watercolor paint. Different paints have different ingredients, which impacts how much water they need.

But there is also a difference between pan and tube paints. The dry pan paints require much more water to be activated, the tubes are however already wet, so they require less.

Lastly, I must not forget to mention brushes. Here it’s all about the type of bristles – real animal hair absorbs way more than artificial ones.

And size matters too! Smaller brushes hold less water than bigger brushes.

Clean water

This is the most important part in my opinion! You have to always have clean water at hand.

If you’re just reusing the water, you’re risking dirty and dull colors and nobody wants that…

Use two cups of water instead! Try one cup for washing and mixing warm colors like reds and yellows and one for cool colors like blues and greens.

Or, what I do – one cup is for picking up clean water to mix in the palette and the second cup is to wash the brushes. Easy!


Do you add water to watercolor paint?

Yes, water is the most important ingredient in watercolors and you can’t really paint a nice watercolor painting without it as the paints are very dry, especially the ones in the pans! Without enough water in your paint mixture, you will be unable to create a smooth layer of color over any surface.

How do you put water in watercolor?

You can add water directly to the pans, or you can mix it with watercolors on the mixing palette. You want to use the right amount of water. Too much water and your colors won’t be as vibrant. Too little and they won’t flow smoothly on the paper.

Final thoughts

There are many ways to apply watercolor, and the amount of water you use will affect the look of your painting.

Sometimes too much water can cause your paintings to look washed out, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different amounts of water in your paintings before committing.

I hope you got all the answers from this article, but please leave me a comment if you have any more questions. I’d be happy to reply to all my fellow artists!

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